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Trio brings new life and energy to downtown’s State

Opinion column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

You can find me in the club ...

— 50 Cent

The more they talked, the more enthusiastic the three young men became. It was an enthusiasm that was contagious.

The aforementioned trio — Lane Rosen, Chris Hayes and Sean Hatcher — had gathered to talk about their plans for a reimagined State Theatre downtown, plans that they hope will restore the venerable venue to its storied past and its even more recent success following its reopening nine years ago.

If success comes — and there’s no reason to doubt it will — it would be one of those too-good-to-believe-it’s-true kind of stories that Hollywood always botches.

Rosen and a collection of business partners renovated and reopened the State nine years ago, and it quickly became THE entertainment venue of choice for the region. At the height of the State’s popularity, Rosen was getting calls from some of the country’s top promoters, eager to add a gig for their acts as they made their way from Atlanta to Tallahassee or vice versa.

But the recession hit, media outlets that promoted local music went in different directions and interest in the downtown venue started drying up. In the middle of it all, tragedy struck, and Rosen found himself with a life-threatening illness that forced his business interests to the back burner.

Fully recovered but with a new perspective, Rosen made the decision to close the doors of the State.

“Most new businesses don’t last through their second year, so with nine years behind us I felt that the State was a success,” Rosen said. “I decided to focus more on other business interests and go ahead and shut these doors.”

His mind made up, Rosen contacted longtime friend Hayes in December with a proposition: You and your band (Albany-based Another Alien Astronaut) come up with a lineup and let’s do one last blowout at the State before we shut it down.

Hayes had a different idea.

“Lane and I have known each other since we were ‘apartment kids’ together, and when he first reopened the State he approached me about getting involved,” Hayes, a musician and real estate appraiser, said. “I had too many irons in the fire at the time and wasn’t able to do it. I’ve always regretted that.

“I told Lane I’d like to talk with him before he finalized plans to close the doors of the State.”

Hayes reached out to like-minded friends he believed would have a vested interest in seeing the State remain open, and the first one to respond was Hatcher, who works at Procter & Gamble. A fellow musician who has entertained as DJ Billy Ocean for a decade and a half, Hatcher too wasn’t keen on the idea of seeing the venue close its doors.

“I’ve had a lot of good times here,” Hatcher said. “There are so few places left in Albany to have entertainment events, I didn’t want to see this place shut down.”

The trio came up with a simple game plan: We share the costs; we share the work; we share the profits.

“It was getting harder and harder for me to do all the work it takes to run this place,” Rosen said. “The biggest thing was having someone else I could count on to help do all the little things.”

Rosen is no longer a lone wolf. He’s seen during a couple of trial runs (a benefit concert and a professional wrestling event) that his new partners do indeed have his back. But the triumvirate are not going to be content to have a random show here and there.

“There’s no other place in this area that has the ambiance that you have at the State,” Hayes said. “There’s no reason it can’t be THE place to go again. It’s just going to take all of us working together, through social media, through our contacts and through a street team, to get the word out about what we’re doing.

“I believe the State can be whatever we want it to be. It’s going to take people driving those couple of extra miles to come to the events we’re having. I’m excited about the possibilities.”

To make the State the kind of venue they envision, Rosen, Hatcher and Hayes are going to have to use their considerable energy and networking skills to stir up the excitement of potential patrons as well. A community buy-in is a must. Any such center of activity can be as lively — or as dead — as potential customers want it to be.

So now, Albany, it’s all on you.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

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